Does science necessarily undermine faith in God? Or could it actually support faith? Beyond the flashpoint debates over the teaching of evolution, or stem-cell research, most of us struggle with contradictions concerning life's ultimate question. We know that accidents happen, but we believe we are on earth for a reason. Until now, most scientists have argued that science and faith occupy distinct arenas. Francis Collins, a former atheist as a science student who converted to faith as he became a doctor, is about to change that.
Collins's faith in God has been confirmed and enhanced by the revolutionary discoveries in biology that he has helped to oversee. He has absorbed the arguments for atheism of many scientists and pundits, and he can refute them. Darwinian evolution occurs, yet, as he explains, it cannot fully explain human nature -- evolution can and must be directed by God. He offers an inspiring tour of the human genome to show the miraculous nature of God's instruction book. Sure to be compared with C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity, this is a stunning document, whether you are a believer, a seeker, or an atheist.
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July 17, 2006
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Excerpt from The Language of God by Francis S. Collins
From Atheism to Belief
MY EARLY LIFE WAS UNCONVENTIONAL in many ways, but as the son of freethinkers, I had an upbringing that was quite conventionally modern in its attitude toward faith ' it just wasn't very important.
I was raised on a dirt farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The farm had no running water, and few other physical amenities. Yet these things were more than compensated for by the stimulating mix of experiences and opportunities that were available to me in the remarkable culture of ideas created by my parents.
They had met in graduate school at Yale in 1931, and had taken their community organizing skills and love of music to the experimental community of Arthurdale, West Virginia, where they worked with Eleanor Roosevelt in attempting to reinvigorate a downtrodden mining community in the depths of the Great Depression.
But other advisers in the Roosevelt administration had other ideas, and the funding soon dried up. The ultimate dismantling of the Arthurdale community on the basis of backbiting Washington politics left my parents with a lifelong suspicion of the government. They moved on to academic life at Elon College in Burlington, North Carolina. There, presented with the wild and beautiful folk culture of the rural South, my father became a folksong collector, traveling through the hills and hollows and convincing reticent North Carolinians to sing into his Presto recorder. Those recordings, along with an even larger set from Alan Lomax, make up a significant fraction of the Library of Congress collection of American folksongs.
When World War II arrived, such musical endeavors were forced to take a backseat to more urgent matters of national defense, and my father went to work helping to build bombers for the war effort, ultimately ending up as a supervisor in an aircraft factory in Long Island.
At the end of the war, my parents concluded that the high-pressure life of business was not for them. Being ahead of their time, they did the "sixties thing" in the 1940s: they moved to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, bought a ninety-five-acre farm, and set about trying to create a simple agricultural lifestyle without use of farm machinery. Discovering after only a few months that this was not going to feed their two adolescent sons (and soon another brother and I would arrive), my father landed a job teaching drama at the local women's college. He recruited male actors from the local town, and together these college students and local tradesmen found the production of plays was great fun. Faced with complaints about the long and boring hiatus in the summer, my father and mother founded a summer theater in a grove of oak trees above our farmhouse. The Oak Grove Theater continues in uninterrupted and delightful operation more than fifty years later.
I was born into this happy mix of pastoral beauty, hard farmwork, summer theater, and music, and thrived in it. As the youngest of four boys, I could not get into too many scrapes that were not already familiar to my parents. I grew up with the general sense that you had to be responsible for your own behavior and your choices, as no one else was going to step in and take care of them for you.